Creating Psychological Safety at Work (Part 1)

Posted in : Blog
Posted on : September 15, 2022

Employees thrive best in work environments where they feel appreciated, supported, and connected to the organization’s mission, vision, and values. When there is a disconnect between the employee and the organization, it leads to reduced productivity and engagement, and a higher turnover rate. The key to improving the employee experience is creating a workplace environment that prioritizes psychological safety.  

While transforming an organization’s culture can seem like a large and daunting task, there are a few things that can be done to improve psychological safety at the micro level. Here are 3 tips to help leaders improve psychological safety within their teams.   

Get to know your team 

While this sounds simple enough, getting to know your team members takes time and continuous effort. Showing genuine curiosity when asking them about their day, their interests, or how things are going for them will help them to feel more comfortable sharing information with you and will help to establish and build a dynamic based on mutual trust and respect. When employees trust their managers, they are more engaged in their work, and as a manager, when you know who you are working with, you will be better informed on how to support them. 

Have two-way dialogue and provide multiple channels for communications

Reciprocity is invaluable, and when your team feels like they are heard, and that you are invested in their well-being and in their feedback, they will feel more comfortable speaking up. On the other hand, if they feel like they are being shut out or stone-walled, then eventually, they will become disengaged.  
 
Creating opportunities for dialogue and providing multiple channels for communicating - whether it be team meetings, one-on-ones, coffee chats, emails, or other means – will allow your team to check in with you and to share their thoughts with you in whichever ways they are most comfortable.  
 
This is especially important for creating a psychologically safe environment for your team because, inevitably, situations arise which may impact them in unforeseen ways. Perhaps, for example, if they received some bad news, are going through a difficult situation, or had an unexpected and stressful outcome of a project they were working on, their performance will be impacted. When there is an open line of communication, they will be more likely to communicate and advocate their needs to you.  

Promote self-awareness

The basis of psychological safety is self-awareness. As a leader, it is important for you to understand your leadership approach, and to tune into the needs and preferences of your team. When you recognize your own preferences and tendencies, you will uncover patterns – and perhaps even biases – that may impact your team members’ willingness to share their thoughts.  

Start by taking a few minutes after checking in with your team members to take stock of the meeting. Were they excited? Disengaged? Did they shut down at any point? Were there any negative or concerning comments? Following this reflection, invite your members to reflect on the meeting as well, and to share their experiences and feedback with you.

If they see that you, as their team leader, are in tune with yourself and with the team, and are actively encouraging them to reflect on the work they are doing or the team’s dynamics, they will be more open to sharing their thoughts and advocating for their needs. 

Why psychological safety matters in the workplace

The business case for psychological safety is simple: happier employees lead to increased revenue: 

  • Organizations are four times as likely to retain top performers 
  • Two times more likely to have employees achieve first-year performance goals, 
  • And two times more likely to hit revenue goals.  

But beyond the business case, psychological safety improves workplace culture and has effects that will impact employees’ lives outside of the workplace. They will be more confident, creative, resilient, and solution-oriented – and these traits, and a better workplace environment and culture, will empower employees to play more active and critical roles in their team.  

Tags IDEA Mental Health Psychological Safety DEI Engagement Management Workplace Workplace Inclusion Leadership Workplace Culture

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